Animating Science

27 March 2017

Animating Science is an exciting pilot project under the banner of STEAM (taking STEM and adding A for arts). University of Dundee School of Life Sciences has partnered with DCA Learning, as part of their public engagement programme, and is supported by Wellcome through the Institutional Strategic Support Fund.

Animating Science aims to develop stop motion animation skills with pupils and teachers (P7 - S3) and support them in creating animated films about Life Science concepts and processes. This will deepen pupils’ engagement and science understanding and make science learning more fun.

What are we doing?

This video, from our first short Animating Science evening course in May 2016, provides a taster of what is to come. Eight young people aged 11 to 15 researched how our immune system works and then created short animated sequences to depict some of the amazing processes that occur inside our bodies when an infection or bacteria get inside:

So far we’ve worked with 76 children and teenagers, including:

Teens out of school

In May 2016 we ran our first course for teenagers, and in September 2016 we ran a five session evening course for 11-16 year olds, animating Life Science concepts including bacterial communities called biofilms (e.g. plaque on teeth) and the immune system in action. Eight young people created some great scenes which are ready to have sound added.

Primary schools

Dunning Primary School

From September 2016 we have had Dunning Primary School in Perth & Kinross involved with their P7 class of 30 pupils, working with science concepts to brainstorm the creation of characters and devise a creative narrative about what happens in our bodies. The pupils worked with their teacher, Mr Dallas, and our project team to storyboard their ideas, plot the shots, create the scenery and models, rehearse for the live action, capture each scene as stop motion animation or live action and script the voice overs. We are not yet at the stage of editing and laying down the soundtrack with the class.

Topic: Microbes / the immune system

Story: A tale of the attack of a mysterious and exotic flying bug: a boy gets stung while playing outside, and we track the journey of the infection introduced by the bite around the body from the brain, as control centre, to the sites of neutrophils and macrophages fighting the infection. We cut between animation and live action, between inside and outside the body, culminating in a big immune system party and the boy resuming playing football.

Woodlands Primary School

From November 2016 we have had Woodlands Primary School in Carnoustie doing the same with their P7 class, also of 30 pupils. Woodlands P7 have been making paper cut out animations and have created a series of mini-stories about how different kinds of infection can be picked up on or in the body, and how each can be defeated by our immune system. They have a title for their film already: The Ill-Lympics!

Topic: Microbes / the immune system

Story: The Ill-Lympics: an adventure story about a band of microbes who meet inside Tom Daly’s nose to plan their own Olympics, a test of who can create the longest, most effective infection. Featuring a verruca infection from swimming, food poisoning in a restaurant, catching a cold from a sneeze in a play area, a super-bug infection in hospital…who will win? And who will end up in the bucket of the dumper truck? Complete with kind advice from a nurse to help the story along.

Who is in our project team?

DCA Learning Co-Ordinator and film maker, Andrew Low

Professional animator, Bruce Husband

Artist, Ian Tayac

DCA Head of Learning, Sarah Derrick

Science Engagement - Head, Professor Nicola Stanley-Wall, a team of scientists at the School of Life Sciences and Schools Outreach Organiser, Erin Hardee

Where are we in the project?

The next task is for our science partners to view the films, and go into each school to help the children script their voice overs and for us to record the soundtrack. After this the final edit will take place and we will end up with a compilation of all the animations.

A special screening event will take place at DCA in 2017 and again in each school to present the wee films made.

We will be evaluating the impact of using stop motion animation as part of science learning, and as part of Curriculum for Excellence delivery with everyone involved, and there will definitely be follow on resources for teachers and teenagers as a result of the work so far, maybe more.

The School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee supports Animating Science through the Institutional Strategic Support Fund from Wellcome.   

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